Orlando Magic

Marcus Smart trying to evolve into a knockdown shooter and early returns are positive

Marcus Smart trying to evolve into a knockdown shooter and early returns are positive

ORLANDO, Fla. -- As the longest-tenured Celtic, Marcus Smart knows part of his role will be to teach some of the younger players the ways of being a Celtic.

But Smart knows he, too, must evolve as a player. 

And for Smart, that evolution involves becoming more impactful on offense. 

“This year I want to be more aggressive on the offensive end, as much as I am on defense,” Smart told NBC Sports Boston.

The idea of seeing Marcus Smart chucking up more shots isn’t exactly the most comforting image for Celtics fans. 

But for those who have played with him and coached him, what we're seeing now are the seeds of hard work finally coming to fruition. 

What's often overlooked was that Smart was relatively injury-free last season for the first time. 

So, is it a coincidence that Smart's best season shooting the ball just so happened to come last season when he tallied career highs in games played (80) and starts (60)?

Hardly not.

And then you have games such as the 100-75 preseason win at Orlando on Friday night, when Smart scored 14 points which included him going 4-for-6 from 3-point range. 

No one expects Smart to shoot that well in the regular season. 

No one connects at a clip that high. 

Still, if Smart makes significant progress percentage-wise on his long-range shooting, the calculus that many have for the Celtics this season will undergo a dramatic change in the Green Team's favor. 

Because more games than not, Smart is the one Boston player that folks gamble on will either not look to shoot or will shoot and miss. 

Prior to last season, Smart consistently shot less than 40 percent from the field and hovered around the low-30, high-20 percentage range when it came to shooting 3's.

Smart has spent years working on improving his 3-point shot, well aware that it has been the one knock against him throughout his NBA career. 

But being relatively healthy last season, Smart connected on a career-high 42.2 percent from the field which included making 36.4 percent on 3's which was also a career benchmark for Smart. 

By no means does Smart now all of a sudden move up to the top of the scouting report when it comes to teams facing the Celtics. 

But if teams are dealing with a Boston squad that has a slew of versatile wing scorers and now you add Smart to the roll call, the Celtics become a different - and far more difficult - team to beat. 

For Smart and the Celtics, it isn’t so much about him scoring more points but being more of a threat. 

“Just like guys like Kemba [Walker] and Jayson [Tatum] and those guys open things up for me because of how they shoot the ball, if I’m knocking down shots it’ll do the same for them and that makes us a lot more dangerous of a team.”

After his shooting performance against the Magic, some jokingly referred to him as Marcus Curry - Marcus Smart shooting like Steph Curry makes Marcus Curry, get it?

But the reality is Smart will never be on the same level of shooting as Curry, one of the game’s all-time greats. 

And Curry will never be able to impact the game defensively the way Smart has done for years and will continue to going forward. 

Still, the idea of Smart looking to become a more reliable shooter, while still playing high-level defense, is the kind of unexpected development that could be the catalyst to the Celtics going on a special run that Celtics fans - and players - are optimistic about this season.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Tatum: Time spent with Kobe not the reason for his not-so-great jump last season

Tatum: Time spent with Kobe not the reason for his not-so-great jump last season

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Two games into the preseason and Jayson Tatum is doing all the things that many expected the third-year forward to have done a year ago. 

He’s keeping defenses off balance with his dribble-drive game in which he’s looking to finish at the rim more, while still knocking down his share of mid-range jumpers but cutting down on the long 2-pointers that he used to take often in his first two NBA seasons. 

There have been a ton of theories as to why Tatum’s progress from Year 1 to 2 didn’t go quite as well as he or the Celtics would have liked, including some who believe the time he spent working with Kobe Bryant was more hurtful than helpful to his game. 

Tatum said that couldn’t be any further from the truth.

“Everything he [Bryant] showed me was great,” Tatum said following Boston’s 100-75 preseason win over Orlando in which he had 15 points, five rebounds and three steals. “The jump that I didn’t make that everyone expected [last year], it was not his fault. He’s one of the greatest ever, so … everything he taught me I’m very grateful for and helped me.”

While Tatum’s game showed growth from his rookie season to last year, he acknowledged if there’s anyone to blame for him coming up short of greatness a year ago, it’s on him. 

“I have to take responsibility for how I played last year,” Tatum said.

The team got off to a lackluster start (10-10) in a season that many pegged the Celtics to advance to the NBA Finals. 

Boston would bounce back and win more games, but the season ended with a second-round series loss to the Milwaukee Bucks which set into motion the team’s core being dramatically changed. 

Kyrie Irving left via free agency and signed with the Brooklyn Nets. Al Horford opted out of the final year of his deal with Boston, and wound up signing with the rival Philadelphia 76ers. The Celtics traded away defensive stalwart Aron Baynes to Phoenix to help create enough salary-cap space to sign then-free agent Kemba Walker to a four-year, max-salaried contract. 

All those changes stem from a Celtics team that was underwhelming for far too many stretches last season.

“Nobody looked good last year,” Tatum said. “I got better last year just not what people expected, what I expected. I take full responsibility. That’s why I’m excited about this year.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.

Jaylen Brown receives adorable card from niece after Celtics win over Magic

Jaylen Brown receives adorable card from niece after Celtics win over Magic

Count this as one of the most heartwarming moments of the day.

Following the Boston Celtics' dominating win over the Orlando Magic, Jaylen Brown took a moment to share a card that his niece gave to him. In the card, Brown's niece calls him "an inspiration to [his] family and everyone around [him]."

Take a look at the card, via Brown's official Twitter account.

Absolutely adorable.

Brown dominated the game against the Magic when he was on the court. He had 11 points, 7 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block in 22 minutes of action. Brown also had a number of highlight plays in the contest including a thunderous slam dunk late in the first half.

Brown should continue to inspire people around him, especially if he can continue to play so well on the court.

Brown confirms hiring of agent, talks contract>>>

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Celtics easily on your device.